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Journal American Rhododendron Society

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Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com


Volume 9, Number 2
April 1955

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Copy Of A Letter From Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour To Mr. R. E. Cooper
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
18th September, 1916

Opening and closing portions of the letter by Sir Isaac B. Balfour
      Fig. 22.  The opening and closing portions of the letter by Sir Isaac B. Balfour,
      Professor of Botany, Edinburgh, to Mr. Cooper.

Dear Mr. Cooper,

        I am afraid I have treated you not well in the way of correspondence and reports upon your collections, and now that I am writing I won't enter upon explanations. Suffice it that I have not forgotten you, nor have your collections been forgotten.
        The work in connection with them has been great, far greater than I anticipated, because your area of collecting has so intimate a relation to the region of Himalaya further west that I have been compelled, in order to get some basis for discrimination of forms, to take up the whole Indian species of the genera I have been specially looking at, namely Rhododendron and Primula. Clarke in the flora of British India has simply avoided critical work and taken the easy path of slumping allied forms in one big aggregate, and then Pax has done little to clear up the tangle of the Primulas. My advance therefore has not been rapid, but what I have done so far has brought out facts of great interest, and in both the genera your collections are most valuable and enlightening. First of all, let me deal with your Rhododendrons. I have described two new species up till now.
        No. 4115 R. argipeplum-so called because of the wonderful white tomentum to which you call attention on the underside of the leaf. It has bristles on the stems, and petioles, like barbatum, and belongs to its series. You did not get very good flowers of it, but they sufficed for description.
        No. 3903 R. haemonium--so called from the blood-red indumentum of the leaf underside. This plant is of particular interest. I take it Mr. Clarke, and Indian botanists generally, would have called it anthopogon. But it is not that species, and compelled me to make a study of the whole anthopogon series in which Mr. Clarke has contained about half a dozen distinct species. Your plant is a beautiful yellow-flowered one. In the result I find-and this is of interest to you in your new sphere of work-that the plant called anthopogon by Don is a south-western Sikkim and Nepal species with pink or white flowers. The anthopogon of the northwest Himalaya is a yellow-flowered plant, and distinguished by having circlets of persistent leaf-bud scales over the branches at the base of each annual growth. It is a new species. It is not anthopogon. You will doubtless find it in your Kulu exploration. Please note if you find any plant like anthopogon which has not the scales I have mentioned. I have called this northwestern Himalayan plant hypenanthum. Your haemonium is like it, but differs in wanting the persistent scales. This is a very satisfactory piece of work, the result of your exploration. Possibly haemonium occurs also in north and east Sikkim, but . I have not yet been able to tackle that question. There are other novelties in your collection, but I have not yet got their characters worked out and put on paper. Apart from the novelties you have got some fine species which, if you have seeds of them, will be new to cultivation. I shall enclose with this a list of your Rhododendron numbers grouped in relation to the aggregate species with which they are identical, or to which they are allied. Looking at it:
        The arboreum lot has one or two distinct forms, notable one with short broad leaves (3593), and one with curious woolly leaves (2089).
        The camelliiflorum lot is new to cultivation, and we have seedlings of 3506. I think amongst them is the lucidum of Nuttall, hitherto only a name.
        The campanulatum lot has many different types. And here let me say that you should look at the campanulatums of the north-west Himalaya. Possibly they are not the Eastern form.
        The dalhousiae set includes one wonder. A large flowered plant (3937) with red stripes up the corolla like an ipomaea. I know nothing like it. You have not much material of it, and there are no fruits or seeds on the specimens. Perhaps you have seed otherwise.
        The griffithianum are not all true griffithianum - One is a large-leaved, the other a small-leaved type-probably new. The large-leaved Rhododendrons which I group under "Large Leaved" in the list are an interesting lot. I hope you have the true Grande, which is different from the Sikkim argenteum. Besides hodgsonii you have one or two other species, and these I am trying to correlate with the Bhutan forms collected by Booth and named by Nuttall, which are now sunk in other species. Your plants ought to throw much light upon the large leaved forms.
        It is delightful to have R. nivale, and we have it growing well. I wish we had also obovatum, unknown since Hooker's time and despised by Indian botanists.
        R. pendulum is a great find, unseen apparently since the middle of last century. You have no seeds on your dried specimens. I hope Mr. Bully may have some. It is epiphytic, and may be difficult to grow - but dearly to be wished for.
        I am glad you have so many of the lepidotum series with the species so long confused with it, elaeagnoides and salignum. I quite think you have one new species in this lot.
        That what I speak of, thomsonii aff., is a plant that I don't think can be thomsonii, and there is no other species it can be. I am hopeful of a new species here.
        vaccinioides is a joy. How I hope you have seed of it. There is none on the specimens. It is a gem for cultivation.
        wallichii aff. includes several forms to be differentiated.
        The difficulty in too many cases of your specimens is that being only fruiting, one hesitates to risk naming. And one hopes for living plants. We have seedlings of a number. The figures underlined red are of species we are growing from your seeds. Several have failed to germinate, and I am having seeds taken in those cases from the dried plants for re-sowing. Your photographs have been helpful, and will be of more help yet when I get set down to final describing of new species.

Now then, let me turn to Primula.
        First of all your 5118 is P. rosea, your 5119 is P. elliptica. The latter has many forms, and is not in general cultivation-if it is now to be found anywhere.
        You will long ere this reaches you have got my response to your question about P. traillii in the copy of our Notes. I quote there all that Watt says about his plant. If you get seed of it, and introduce it, your find will be great, for Watt tells me it is a fine species, and his specimens don't belie the statement.
        In the north-western Himalaya are several most attractive Primulas and species, which it is much to be desired that we should have in cultivation, because they have been so confused with eastern Himalayan species. I look with much interest to your account of your impression of the Primula flora in the two regions. You will see in the copy of Notes that is gone to you reference to the following north-western new form: - glandulifera - a small species; Harrissii-like roses - but I fear out of your area, as will also be the other members of the rosea complex, rhodantha, rosiflora, elegans, and radicata, but you should look out for forms of roses-see what I say under Harrissii in the Notes; tanupoda is a curious little thing like tibetica. Of the species of old described from the north-west, you should specially look for the true rotundifolia of Wall (often epiphytic); clarkii we know almost nothing of; the north-western Himalayan sibirica is not the true Tibetan plant; then most interesting would it be if you got the true obtusifolia of Royle - there is no obtusifolia in eastern Himalaya - the plant found there is roylei or Gammieana, Royle found his plant at Kunewar; in the petiolaris lot you will have a big field, and all are worthy collecting and recording for station, for under the name petiolaris some dozen species are confused; the whole purpurea series, of which there are many varieties, also deserve attention; high up you should get minutissima; forms like erosa and erosioides are also from the north-west, and they differ very markedly from ordinary denticulata; you may also come across floribunda in many forms, and its elucidation, in view of many cultural variations, may be facilitated by your gatherings. The area is said not to be so rich as the eastern, but that may be from faulty observation. The chief point to focus your attention on from the geographical standpoint is: how do the north-west plants differ from the eastern ones? Very like they may be, but in most cases there is first a difference in allied forms which should be recognizable on the spot. It may be worth your while to look carefully at the involucrata series, because the north-western ones are not, first, the eastern, and then there is a curious form of it with calyx split to the base so as to be nearly polypetalous, which some say is a monster, others say not.
        But for the holocaust at the Printers to the Stationery Office, which consumed an edition of our Notes ready for issue, as well as portions of others on the way, descriptions of many others of your plants would have been published by now. A few days' time ought to see a further number full of Primulas issued, and it will go to you whenever it comes out. There are half a dozen new species of yours in it, and I have yet more to describe. Some of your Bhutan plants are splendid P. eburnea like P. reidii, of which you send also a photograph, must be a beautiful plant. P. diane (like P. kingii) is also fine. P. oreina, the little dwarf, like dryadaefolia or bella, is a beauty. P. xanthopa with its bright yellow star eye is also a lovely plant. I have had for the moment to drop Primulas in order to get out some Rhododendrons for Mr. Williams, who has been pressing me, but I hope soon to be able to return to them and describe your remaining fine species.
        All the photographs, both of Rhododendrons and Primulas, have been useful in helping diagnosis. I shall send them all to Mr. Bully when I have done with them.
        The "Scroph" you sent me as unknown at Calcutta, turns out to be a new Buddleia, which has taken you as name-father and the Boragineous plant is an Onosma also described by Mr. Smith- O. paniculatum-not hitherto known in Himalaya.
        Now I think I better not tire you any further just now. I shall write again ere long when I am able to send you copies of our further publications. I hope you will have a really good success in the north-west. It has been eclipsed by Sikkim, but I am sure undeservedly, and that you will show this to be the case, I trust. Hoping you are well and enjoying your leave, and with kind regards,

I am, yours,
ISAAC BAYLEY BALFOUR


Volume 9, Number 2
April 1955

DLA Ejournal Home | QBARS Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JARS and other ejournals